You are with me

There are so many things that remind me of the wonderful, special people in my life. I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty good at remembering where gifts have come from. I love wearing the earrings Dad picked out for me on one of his trip to NZ; I adore the necklace I bought as a gift to myself, from my favourite cafe in Wangaratta; and I feel so loved, putting on my rainbow scarf that a good friend gave me just after Frith died, among so many other things.

One of the newest additions to my treasure trove, is my new favourite bag.

I have very talented friends in my life, and very generous friends indeed. One of these lovely friends does incredible crochet work, some of which I had purchased in the past at markets, and some I’d seen on her facebook page. I knew she had a way with denim, so I asked if I could send her a few pairs of Frith’s jeans, (he had over a dozen pairs!!) to turn into a bag.

And she absolutely nailed it. I also sent her the dress I was wearing when I heard the news on New Years Day, to use as the lining, knowing I would never want to wear it again. This is me wearing said dress, the day that I had bought it at an op-shop in Melbourne on our trip together in November 2017. Our final trip to Melbourne.

I get a lot of compliments about my bag, and I love that it pretty much goes with anything, just like jeans. Also pictured in that photo is a gorgeous bracelet/cuff that my dear friend Sian bought me for my birthday, and Frith’s wedding ring that I will often wear.

Today has been a rough day. There is just so much sad news going around, and too many families losing loved ones the way we lost Frith. It breaks my heart every single time. What are we to do?

He is no longer here, but he is with me, always.

There should be six

I had a moment the other morning, where I was caught out. I was filling up everyone’s water bottles for the day. School for Chance and Quinn, kindy day for Darby and Julius, and I was going on a walk with my dear friend for the morning (thanks K). I thought to myself “there should be six water bottles” since I was getting one for all of us.

But there were only five.

It took me probably 10 seconds of absent-mindedness to realise why there weren’t six. I think I rolled my eyes and kicked myself and was brought back to my reality.

And it just happened momentarily once again, as I was skimming through the Woollies catalogue. I saw that Heinz Meat in a Can was half price and thought “I should grab a few”.

I would never eat meat from a can, but somehow Frith thought it was okay. Well, it was more the convenience of having a whole meal that he could take to work and leave there, and it would still be okay two months later. Not like the leftovers I would send to work with him that would stay in his bag all day, that he would remember about at 3pm, and would eat after microwaving the crap out of it (and melting my Tupperware in the process several times) and declare it was “still good!”

I always thought it was funny that he had an iron gut for some things, for example reheating leftover KFC chicken after it had been sitting in the fridge for a week, then promptly forgetting about it, discovering it in the microwave the next day, and reheating it once more. And eating it. And living to tell the tale. (Actually, that was one of the stories his best man told at our wedding. Classic stuff.) Yet when he started eating hot and spicy KFC a few years ago, he would suffer the next day. Every time. Yet he persisted.

I feel like I’m a year behind in my grief. Does that make sense? I feel like, the way I’m feeling and behaving now, is how everyone expected me to feel and behave a year ago. But this time last year, I was a machine. No one could believe how well I was “coping”. I was filling out forms like a mad-woman; I was exercising pretty much every day; I was there for the kids emotionally and physically; I was just go go go and in survival mode; I knew Frith wasn’t around, and I didn’t expect him to be, because nothing in my physical environment reminded me that he should be here. (The kids are my emotional environment FYI.)

But now, getting up every day is hard; exercising is a chore and always comes last in my to-do list; I’m still filling out forms, but with lest gusto; I’m finding the kids’ demands so… demanding!

I’m having moments of forgetting that Frith isn’t here anymore.

More than anything, I’m finding this all very interesting, and not as upsetting as the story sounds. I’m unpacking so much of this with my new psych, and I feel like I’m actually moving forward, slowly, with my journey, instead of being stuck.

I’ve been stuck, so stuck, for months. Unable to see anything in my future that could possibly bring me joy. Perhaps this is the ominous cloud lifting. Perhaps nothing will change for a few more months. Undoubtedly, it will be hard to get out of bed for a while longer, since I’m not a morning person 🙂

That’s enough for this rainy Friday night. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being here.

It helps.

Kintsugi

Kintsugi is the name of a Japanese art form and philosophy. In the art of Kintsugi, cracked and broken pottery is repaired with lacquer, mixed with powdered gold. As a philosophy, the breakage is seen as our most vulnerable point in life. The repairs are not disguised but highlighted to signify something that is fully healed and stronger. The repaired piece of pottery has strong core values, which is used as a metaphor for life, to not skip the struggles but to embrace it, by showing where your character is built. 

My beautiful cousin Emma gave me an early birthday present, and a lovely card explaining these black and gold hearts. I’m not sure that I’m fully healed, or that I will ever be, but I guess that’s the point. The cracks in my life are golden, they will always show, and I’ll never try and hide them.

Shock took the first half of my year, and I feel medication took the second half.

Don’t get me wrong. I needed both of these things, in precisely measured doses at these times, but it’s hard to look back at my year and not feel as though it was taken from me.

There are pockets of the year that are a mystery to me. I know I was living day to day, sometimes hour to hour or moment to moment, but months seem to have vanished.

I certainly have a lot of paperwork and paid bills to show for my year. I also have kids who are all a year older, and a few more wrinkles and several stress kilos added to my body, so the year definitely happened.

A friend asked me last week if I thought I had gone through the whole grieving process. Intellectually, yes I have. Emotionally? I’m on my way, as I’ve been working on it. I have time for that. There is no hurry. The golden cracks aren’t going anywhere.

I have made efforts this year to work through things, with counselors and psychologists. I am learning that I don’t need to make everyone happy; that my job is to work on my own happiness, as well as my kids. I’ve mostly come to terms with the lack of answers I will ever have. The coping strategies I used last year (mainly food and booze) are not long-term solutions, and I’m looking forward to backing off on those this year, and rediscovering other things that make me happy instead. 

This time last year, my world had fallen apart, but thanks to family and friends, I have started to rebuild. I look forward to 2019. It’s going to be a-okay.

Did you know I proposed?

Frith said yes, obviously, and 11 years ago today we were married. This is how we celebrated our 10th anniversary last year:

I know right? Delivered to the hospital with love. Actually, when I got there he was in theatre so he had it, warmed up, when he popped home for lunch. We planned to celebrate once we had moved to Toowoomba, as life was in a shambles with packing and moving at the time. 

So, yeah, in case you’re new around here, it was I who proposed to Frith. We used to frequent Cafe La Dolce Vita on Park Rd in Milton, and I put together an elaborate plan involving a few outside parties, to propose to him the night before his birthday.

He was planning to propose to me the following week at Day Camp, which is where we had met initially, 8 years before that. He still did that proposal and it was awesome. 

A few weeks ago, I found myself child free and in the vicinity of La Dolce Vita.

so I popped in and ordered an Italian Hot Chocolate.

It was as good as I remember. This was us setting up for our engagement party, August 2007.

And a photo Frith took of me on our honeymoon.

I had planned to have Chance and Darby’s combined birthday picnic today, perhaps to act as a bit of a distraction, but the universe had other plans: Chance came down with a fever yesterday and ended up throwing up in the afternoon, then Julius joined in at 9pm last night. I was worried it was contagious, so decided to pull the pin on the party. Chance still has fevers, but Jules is fine, as is everyone else, so we will just lay low today.

So happy anniversary to you Frith. I know you are with us in some way; you’ve got to be. It wouldn’t make sense for you to be missing seeing your kids grow up, on some level at least. Thank you for a marvelous 10 years of marriage. You have given me a lot of memories to fall back on when I’m particularly sad or mad with you for not being here. I miss you.

Trying to remember all the things

I fear my memories of Frith are fading.

I was trying to think of one of our silly jokes that we used to always do, and I can’t remember the punch line. It’s really frustrating me.

We used to do this other joke where one of us would say something like “want some chicken?” and the other would say “you’re a chicken”. It works with many things. “Have you seen my mouse pad?” “You’re a mouse pad.” See? So dumb and so versatile.

Once when we were unpacking after one of our moves, Frith asked me what was in the box I was unpacking. I said “Crafty shit” and he said “you’re a crafty shit.” Oh my gosh I couldn’t stop laughing. It still makes me smile as I type this.

That was a running gag between us for years. Anytime I was crafting, Frith would say “what are you doing” and I’d say “crafty shit” and he’d say “you’re a crafty shit.” And from then on, whenever we moved, I would label the box of craft with “crafty shit.” This was before the kids could read, thankfully 🙂

Whenever the kids asked Frith what he was doing, regardless of what he was doing, he would reply “making a sandwich”. The funny thing was, he pretty much never made any sandwiches, but on the rare occasion he ever did, the kids would be cluey enough to catch him out, and ask him. I try and do that too. When the kids ask me what I’m doing, I try and remember to respond with “making a sandwich”.

I’m finding myself desperately trying to remember all our silly bits and inside jokes. They are getting harder to recall. I’ve been writing them down as much as possible, but I know I won’t remember them all. And it seems the harder I try to remember, the more the memories elude me.

I just hope that they come back to me in other situations, in the years to come. I hope that I can be transported back to a memory with him; a sweet moment, captured in time by a dumb, off the cuff remark, that is in the depths of my heart, waiting to resurface, and to give me a little smile.

The Loneliness of Grief

It sounds like a good title for a book, don’t you think? To be honest, since Frith died, I’ve considered writing a book, and this is one of the titles I’ve thrown around in my head. It was inspired by something said by a fellow sufferer of grief; the wife of a doctor who died by suicide 16 months ago, who I have befriended and who has been such a comfort in my life this year. (Hi Sue x)

I was just sitting on the couch, trying to decide what to watch, and all of a sudden I was filled with the desire, the need to talk to Frith. The silence that fills this space, the void on the couch next to me, the absence of my companion, my partner in life, punches me in the face every so often. And tonight was one of those times.

Normally, I’m fairly present, and these moments don’t often creep up on me. I’m constantly aware of them, but they don’t take me by surprise, if you get my drift. For example, my brother-in-law, Jacques, is driving the kombi at the moment, and is staying with my mother-in-law, a kilometer down the road, and every time I drive past the kombi, I’m present enough to know that Frith isn’t nearby.

I know it’s because nothing here is associated with Frith, so I don’t have the constant reminders of him. If we were still living in our family home in Rockhampton, I would have a constant feeling of Frith about to come home, or listening out for him. In some ways I’m fortunate not to have that constant reminder that he’s not here.

Like I need to be reminded.

But tonight, I was caught off-guard, and wondered for a moment “where’s Frith and what does he want to watch, because I can’t decide”. And it stung. I don’t cry much, partly because I don’t have the energy left at the end of the day; partly because my life feels surreal and it’s easy to detach from the old and exist in the new. But I suspect it’s mainly because if I start, my heart breaks a little more, and it’s too hard to stop. There will never be an end to this loneliness and this grief, and the thought of having to acknowledge that is just too much right now.

Maybe one day.

The fog

I don’t know if it’s the fact that all four kids slept in their own beds all night long last night, until 7am this morning, but I woke up feeling pretty okay.

I don’t know know if it’s because my anger is starting to soften, but I spent my morning with a warmer heart.

I don’t know if it was the baby cuddles I had with my cousin’s seven week old this morning, but my day felt lighter.

I don’t know if it was the gratitude I feel towards my family helping me out every single day that made my afternoon feel easier.

I don’t know if it was the endorphins from the Hiit workout I did this afternoon, but my muscles definitely felt sore. But stronger than yesterday.

I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow. I don’t know how the kids will sleep tonight. But I do feel like the fog has lifted, if ever so slightly, and I’m starting to see and feel things again that I haven’t been open to since the start of the year.

And it feels pretty okay.

Looking for the words

I’ve been sitting here in my cafe for almost an hour, and not much to show for it. I came here to write my blog post to celebrate 10 years of blogging, which will fall this Sunday. But I just can’t seem to find the words. I was going to do 10 days of sharing my favourite posts over the last decade, but I remember as a teenager, watching those flashback episodes of Seinfeld and Friends and I would always feel ripped-off.

I will tell you that my favourite blog post I’ve ever written was the 1000 words post, celebrating my 1000th blog post. It was in February 2016. Frith and I were in Melbourne for a week without the kids – we only had three then, and Darby was just over one year old. I read that post again just now and I’ve been floored by it. It is filled with such hope for our future; it tells me not to worry, and to trust Frith; it tells me I probably won’t have any more babies; it tells me that life for us together is just beginning.

If I’m to believe in signs, this is the third time I’ve been in my cafe where one of “our songs” has come on. The first time was this one, yesterday was this one, and today, Sam Smith is singing Latch. Every song, every reminder, every promise left hanging is such a kick in my guts at the moment.

The first of January was the worst day of my life, but for the first few months I was functioning fine; I had to for the kids. I had no choice, and I didn’t allow myself to fall apart. I’m starting to wonder if I have a choice in keeping it together anymore. Cracks are forming, my temper is shortening, patience is wavering, frustration is growing. I’m starting to say “it’s not fair” and “I can’t believe this is my life now” among other words.

I think one of the things I struggle with the most is being okay with people helping me. Frith and I were always the ones offering help to others, and accepting help was always hard for me. I don’t know why. It’s so crazy. I just feel enormous guilt over how much my parents do for me now (I haven’t done a load of washing in 6 months). Maybe I just have to keep in mind that this is a temporary situation; one day I will get back on my feet and be a bit more independent; I must remember that this is what families do for each other. I’ve never lived near family since having kids, so I don’t really know how it works.

Gosh what a dreary post on a dreary day. I might need to perk the hell up before school holidays start, otherwise it will be a long two weeks. Maybe another coffee will help….. 🙂

Remember the time

There have been many stages to my grief this year. First there was shock, followed by a long period of numbness, overlapped by sadness, with some frustration, pity and bewilderment thrown in. If I’m honest, I’ve allowed myself a lot of sadness for my kids, and not a lot for myself. It’s been too hard.

There has been a lot of anger in my heart lately. A lot. It has definitely taken over the sadness; perhaps as a coping strategy. Self preservation of you will.

But tonight I allowed myself to remember some things about Frith, that I only I ever got to experience. I allowed myself to remember times when he was running late for work, all dressed up in his vest and tie and boots, me in my daggy pjs and dressing gown, hair all over the place. He would say goodbye to me, and I’d give him the biggest, longest, lingering kiss. It would stop  him in his tracks; he would be in a trance (yes, I was that good) and say “hmmmm can I stay here with you all day?”

I allowed myself to remember the quiet moments with the kids, when he didn’t know I was listening; his soft words, his cuddles, the endless number of stories he would read, or the countless times he would read Fox in Sox. He knew it by heart.

It was his birthday on Saturday. He would have turned 37. We had a family day filled with potjie, Lego, music, wine, a fire pit, movies, pjs, a skateboard, lemonade, lollies, Savanna Cider, and cheesecake. In case you don’t know, Frith hated cheesecake. But we all love it, and we all have our own memories of trying to make him like cheesecake over the years 🙂

Here was our day. Lego before…

Ice cold Savannas
Cousin cuddles around the fire
The skateboard
Brotherly love
The Lego, finished, hours later
Amazing beef cheek potjie!! Served with polenta. Thanks Ma!
The cheesecake (there was also home-made sticky date pudding and orange polenta cake that were, quite frankly, outstanding!!)
I know I’m allowed to be angry, and sad, and everything in between. But I also know it’s nice to remember some good times for myself, and not just remind the kids of all the wonderful things he used to do for them, and with them. He did a lot for me. We did a lot together. He loved me. And I need to remind myself of that every day, to keep his memory alive. And perhaps to help soften the anger that is sitting in my heart.

Finding Joy

I’m ready to laugh again.

I was at my friend’s family picnic lunch yesterday, and one thing I noticed immediately was there was so much laughter. About silly things, fun things, funny stories, banter between cousins and aunties and uncles and siblings; just so much laughter.

I wanted in on it. But it was really hard.

I still sometimes feel as though, if I’m seen to be having fun, it dishonours my grief for Frith. I feel like I’m not supposed to be having too much fun, or laughing too hard, or playing too silly with the kids.

I feel like I’m a prisoner to my grief, but it’s also mostly self-inflicted.

I still miss Frith every moment of every single day. No one denies that.

I still love Frith with my whole heart, and I ache for him. No one thinks otherwise.

I still wish with my whole heart that he hadn’t left us so young, and that the kids still had him around. Everyone knows that.

But the sadness is eating me up inside. It strips my patience and makes me constantly cranky with the kids; it has taken away my ability to laugh loudly; it denies me a light-hearted conversation about my beautiful husband, because I feel I need to inject some sadness, just so people still know I’m hurting.

You know I am. I know I am. But I’m ready to have some laughs. Frith made us laugh so hard and so often. It’s time to bring those moments of joy back to life.